George Kahumoku Jr. - Footprints in the Poi
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George Kahumoku Jr.
Footprints in the Poi
Kealia Farm Record Co (

cd cover Over the past couple of years, West Coast residents have been particularly lucky. Hawaiian slack key guitarist and singer George Kahumoku Jr. was based near San Francisco while he worked on a master's degree. As a result, slack key players were able to learn first-hand from one of the finest exponents of the style and, perhaps more importantly, audiences on the mainland were exposed to a quality performer, a true ambassador of a unique culture.

Kahumoku has now returned to live in the Islands, but has left a parting gift: an album which captures exquisitely his idiosyncratic live performance.

A live show from George inevitably incorporates songs and tunes from Hawaii, featuring his 12-string guitar playing, his baritone singing with touches of falsetto, talk-story, hula dancing, and occasionally other guests. "Footprints in the Poi" manages to incorporate all these elements in an absorbing 73-minute recording.

Much of the music can be heard on earlier recordings. However, typical of one of the better players, they cannot be heard the way they are played here. Every performance is a one-off. The music depends so much on mood, atmosphere, location, time, audience. so many variables, it is hard to imagine Kahumoku even attempting to repeat arrangements. His skill on guitar and his understanding of the intricacies of slack key provide him with a wide vocabulary of sounds. He will sit back, relaxed, almost in another world, and play music as if he is sitting on a back porch.

Most tracks are preceded by introductions - talk-story, part of the Hawaiian way of life - and there are few who can recount events and describe people with the humor and poignancy of Kahumoku.

He is joined periodically by his son, Keoki, on vocals, 6-string guitar and ukulele, along with Bob Brozman (acoustic steel guitar) and Daniel Ho (ukulele), as well as hula dancer Nancy Sweeney. Along with their musical talents, they add their comments and laughter; their obvious enjoyment is infectious.

By the end of this recording, you are left not only with his sounds echoing in your head, but also with images of his performance. He may have gone home, but Footprints in the Poi takes you closer to Hawaii. - Jamie O'Brien

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